This season Batsheva Hay swapped the runway for a presentation. Hay titled the collection “The Self As A Dress,” and walking into Tribeca’s Bortolami Gallery, it’s easy to imagine a stately performance piece housed in a white box. The atmosphere inside was chaotic. Rolling racks filled with Batsheva’s fall collection — many of them folded — filled the space. Models, including many of Hay’s friends and collaborators, prowled the racks, taking things off and putting them on. They go around modeling their new clothes, sometimes holding a square of plexiglass with what they’re thinking at the time (“I love this!” “Trans Rights,” “I wish I had a tail”). In the center, a row of classic Prairie dresses by Batsheva in white hangs on a clothesline. Over time, models and attendees were encouraged to write their feelings on these dresses. Someone in the corner is playing Radiohead’s “Creep” on a theremin. This is not a demo, it’s happening.
“It’s actually more vivid than I thought it would be,” Hay said “backstage” in a quiet corner. “The idea kind of came out of people coming to my studio to try on,” she continued. “One time Kembra Pfahler came over and a lady from my synagogue was there with her daughter, and these people wouldn’t cross in normal life; but here they were trying on, reflecting on each other and commenting on their appearance, it became really fun.” It had a very familiar — almost forgotten — feel to it, like at a Barneys Warehouse Sale: women from all walks of life dressing and undressing, sharing mirror space, and comment on their findings. It was a democratizing experience. “Fashion week can feel boring, and that’s not really my concern, so that’s how I express and express my feelings,” Hay said.
But what about the clothes? For several seasons, Hay has been exploring and pushing the boundaries of what her label can encompass. “I’m always trying to do different things, and when I succeed, it’s me making clothes that my grandmother would love,” she said. Standouts include a brown woodgrain print maxi dress (drawn by a friend) with black velvet ribbon detail; a gray quilted apron mini dress paired with a floral print blouse with a white bow at the neckline; and a gorgeous brown floral Velvet coat made from dead stock fabric embellished with rhinestones. A very ’90 bodice and ball gown proposal would look perfect in today’s blue silk taffeta or white PVC. Hay’s knitwear has been one of the highlights of each season, and turtlenecks and black and white circle-print skirts (calling them polka-dots would be an understatement) are winners. The finale dress consisted of two last-season dresses, one from last fall and one from spring 23. (“I couldn’t loan them out anymore, so I spliced them together,” says the designer.)
There’s an ivory moiré ruffle shirt with black velvet Bow and matching midi-skirt with pearl buttons on the front. In the lookbook pics it looks like a classic Batsheva, demure and angular, but at the show it was worn by a model with triangular bright orange curls and bright pink rouge on her cheeks and eyebrows, look Looks like it’s from an early 23 Susan Seidelman movie. That’s part of what Hay was trying to convey through the show — what ego brings to clothes, and how they change you and make you feel. “It’s a durable piece of clothing that makes sense in this day and age, right?” Hay said. “This is the clothes my soul gets epigenetic influences, something I’ve learned from previous generations: I feel clothes in my bones.”